Wear Store Review: Wear App-Shopping Made Easy
Wear owners sometimes feel neglected by Google, and so do Wear developers. The apps for Wear developers don’t have any effective ways of reaching Wear users, and Wear users have no practical method of looking for new Wear apps. The Android Wear “section” of the Playstore is mostly useless, too, only showing about 200 apps, most of which are either just paid watchfaces or big-name phone apps that gained Wear support.
What the developers of Wear Store set out to do is provide a unified environment where you’ll be able to find all of your smartwatch apps, watchfaces and games, neatly categorized and with the features you need to provide a good app-shopping experience. And while you can obviously tell the app doesn’t have a huge developer team behind it just by looking at it, it is a remarkable example of how rogue programmers can defy Google itself at its own game and come out with the better product. While it might have its downsides like every app does, it offers an interesting tool for those who want to make the best use out of their expensive wearable… which as a whole they haven’t received all of the attention we expected them to get. Could this app solve the quintessential problem of feeling app-less in our wrists? Let’s take a look!
As soon as you open the app you are greeted with what I can only describe as a bootleg Playstore. While it looks similar, and while the organization and elements are there, none of them are fully realized. There’s a striking lack of shadowing on every button that gives it this weird vibe that unnerved me until I finally realized that it looked so different because of it. While the solid colors are a little tasteless, there’s still some well-done iconography and the layout, albeit a steal, works very well. You’ll be blasted with colorful categories ranging from “Apps” to “Games” with a couple of interesting additions such as “News”, which gives you Android Wear news, and “Reviews”, which is a compilation of all of Conrad Sykes’ Wear app reviews.
The store has a total of 130 games and 1174 apps, much more than what’s offered in Google’s Wear Category. The apps are not hosted on the Wear Store itself – the app just serves as a medium that links you to the corresponding Playstore download when you hit the button. When you first begin exploring the interface, you are greeted with the prompt to choose if you want to use Wear Store’s app detail page, which features all the info you need to know about the app in an organized layout. You can also choose to have the app directly link you to the Playstore entry of the app which you click in any of the lists provided by the app. If you choose to use Wear Store’s default page, you’ll need to log in with your Google account so that it can fetch the information to display it appropriately. The developer is very open with his app’s code, but even if you still don’t want to have your Google linked to yet another app, you can opt not to and just get redirected every time.
The main interface features a “downloads” button at the top where you can see all of your Wear apps, regardless of where you downloaded them from. I find this useful for keeping tabs of what my current Wear apps are, in case I need to do some quick purging (clicking on them will bring you to the Wear Store or Playstore entry where you can uninstall it).
Let’s talk a little bit more about the design: It’s obviously Material, although we can’t really say it fully is so. The only shadow element I’ve noticed throughout the interface is the slight shade of the action bar. Everything else is very plain-looking. The only other element that the app put to make the design prettier is the hamburger-to-arrow transformation that everyone loved so much on the original Material Playstore (will it ever come back?!). Other than that, the design is tame, without much going for it. It won’t offend your eyes, but it really seems like just another app trying to surf the Material wave without bringing a good enough board. It looks decent, nothing more.
The settings menu is very bare-bones, which in this app’s case, is actually a great idea. It showcases the experience that it’s supposed to give: look for an app, download it, leave. All you can really change is define your homescreen or change where the entries will take you (Playstore or in-app Wear Store details page). The developer knows this is what users will be doing on his app and streamlines the experience down to just that, and it does a good job at it.
When you search, you’ve got the option of specifying a type (Games or Apps), price (Free or Paid), and a rating. The search works well, but a little thing that annoys me is that the Enter key in the keyboard doesn’t initiate the function. You’ve got to tap that “search” text at the top which doesn’t look much like a button in the first place. When you enter any category for apps or games, and their corresponding subcategory of your choice (from books to weather, all you’d find on the Playstore is here), you can also filter apps by price; good for those that just want to try out things for free.
Now this all sounds very nice, and useful. The only real downside so far has been the design. But there’s that one recurring annoyance that makes so many free apps unappealing: Ads. The ad bar at the bottom makes the app even less attractive, but thankfully it is not as easy to accidentally press as it is with other apps’ use-cases. However, there’s the full screen ads that pop up every now and then without notice… and have to be closed by tapping the tiny cross at the top left corner of the screen (the bane of right-handed phablet users!). This has spawned countless annoyances and has made me paranoid as I really don’t want to accidentally tap an add that spawns the instant before my thumb reaches the glass.There are some donation buttons to remove ads, ranging from 1 to 5 dollars. It isn’t too unreasonable if you use this app often, but given the infrequency of Wear app releases and the short time one spends shopping for apps with small catalogues, you’d probably be doing it out of respect and gratefulness rather than commodity.
This app is a good example of the community coming together to solve a problem. With users suggesting the addition of wear apps every day, there’ll be no shortage of content for you to check daily if you wish to. Just don’t expect the same caliber of pleasantness that the Playstore or Amazon store provide. The fact that the store is not overcrowded with apps (yet?) makes it simple and fast to browse, though, and it’ll only take you a couple of minutes before you hit the bottom of any category. So if you are a Wear user, hungry for apps or new functions, this is definitely the app for you.
You can find the Wear Store app on the Play Store.